Planting a garden was one of the first things the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) did when they established Fort Vancouver. At its height, in the mid-1840s, the garden had expanded to eight acres and provided not only produce but also large numbers of flowering plants and shrubs, and fruit trees for the pleasure of the fort's residents and visitors. The larger gardening operation was symbolic of the power that the HBC exerted over the entire region and was representative of their extensive agricultural enterprises.
In 1836, American missionary Henry Spalding described the garden as "...about 5 acres laid out in good order, stored with almost every species of vegetables, fruits trees, and flowers." His observations of the region's farming potential, and those of other Americans, stimulated immigration from the eastern United States. In 1843 approximately 900 settlers made the journey to Fort Vancouver. By 1846 more than 8,000 settlers had arrived in the Oregon Country, leading to the end of HBC dominance.
The garden today is a small, interpretive representation of the larger historic garden. A dedicated cadre of volunteers and staff plant heirloom fruits and vegetable, herbs, and flowers to give a feeling of the abundance that was once here. Just as in the 1840s, the plants in today's garden provide produce for the fort's kitchen
and a place of beauty and rest for visitors.